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Archive for September, 2014

Polar opposites…

I’ve been self-conscious about the appearance of my finger nails since high school.  Back then, I was a nail biter; today, my nails reflect my work around the barn.  In the white collar role of professional sales, it’s hard to hide the blue collar effects of working with hammers, horses and hay.  Seems polar opposite, yes?

Coaching vs. training are often polar opposites.  I enjoy coaching coachable sales professionals.  Role plays are my favorite! What’s that?  You hate role plays?  Ah yes, that’s the opposite pole.

Some sales reps like practice sessions; some hate it; many avoid practice because they’re “too busy”.  Too busy to practice?  Well, at least they’re not an eye doctor.  After all, we wouldn’t want to turn our baby blues over to an eye surgeon if we thought she hadn’t practiced the procedure a thousand times before, would we?  Medical professionals vs. sales professionals – polar opposites?

One of my clients recently told me he has been in a white collar, professional position as a business analyst in the IT industry for over 30 years.  His primary role has been doing implementations.  Now, he’s working for a new company who hired him for a “pre-sales” role to help them sell larger, more complicated deals.  His finger nails are immaculate.

He’s been playing the “I’m just too busy…” card lately, and opting out of practice sessions.  His company signed him up for coaching, it wasn’t his idea.  Yet, his main concern has been over my reaction to his cancellations; says he doesn’t want me to think it is a negative reflection on me.

It brought to mind an interview I conducted years ago with John Bruce.  John had been selling management consulting services.  I don’t think he had fared too well though.  First, he was interviewing with me for a new job.  Second, he had grime under his finger nails; a polar opposite image of a white collar professional, true?

When he noticed I had noticed his finger nails, he became a bit self-conscious.  As it turned out he was doing a little auto repair work the prior evening.  I wasn’t sure if he was working on his own car to save a little money, or if he was moon lighting to augment his income.  That’s when he confided his desire to succeed in this new position.

I asked him if he thought he was coachable.  His reply has stayed with me ever since:

“Gary, I’m all balls and no brains.  You coach me what to do and I’ll give you everything I’ve got.”

It was an exaggeration – John had plenty of brains.  Coachable he was, too.  He earned the job offer; sold at a President’s Club level; and improved his selling skills every step of the way.  Reminded me of Joe Newton:

If better is even possible, good is not enough.

Maybe it’s not in the finger nails or the polar opposites of white vs. blue collar.  It could be the coach who’s at fault.  Ever tried to train sales to a professional that isn’t coachable?  There’s a fine line between coaching someone vs. trying to force them to do it our way.

Coaching a sales professional requires (among many things) mutual consent – kind of like forming a partnership.  But beware – even partnerships can have polar opposite definitions:

Partnership means, 

“Let’s you and I agree to do things my way.”

Naomi R. Blakeslee

Sounds like marriage – but I digress.

GAP

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Three-fer

Web meetings:  “strangers” meeting with “strangers”, discussing strategy – can you relate?  You’re invited to a meeting; log in on time; then wait for the key participants to appear – with the usual excuse, “Sorry, my previous meeting ran over.”

Starting without introductions, agenda, or objective, one of the meeting speakers launches in to a campaign speech about the strategic importance of x, y, or z.  We patiently listen – not knowing exactly why we’re there; unprepared to contribute; we start wondering what’s going on in our email in box – so we open up a second window.  Let the web-meeting-multi-tasking commence!

As we run over the allotted time (making that key person late for his next meeting), things are hastily concluded with a battle cry, “Let’s take the hill!” and we adjourn; leaving the meeting without assigning tasks; next steps; roles; or responsibilities.

Today’s virtual, web meetings remind me of Arthur Black’s perspective on systems development:

The stages of Systems Development

  1. Wild enthusiasm
  2. Disillusionment
  3. Total confusion
  4. Search for the guilty
  5. Punishment of the innocent
  6. Promotion of the non-participants

The other day I attended 3 web meetings like this.  Yep, it was a three-fer!

The first meeting started the usual way:  no introductions; sans-agenda; absent objectives.  We were gathered to discuss, “the most unique and important, new opportunity we have ever pursued!”  Tim started the meeting; Jim hijacked the talking stick for a 30 minute, self-serving campaign speech on the strategic work he has completed so far; the path he will lead us all on; and how we must break down our internal, departmental boundaries so he can lead us to a new-new world.

A few others added their hoorahs and the meeting ended without assigning tasks; timeframes; roles; or responsibilities.   I never did find out who Jim was.  So I thought about Norman R. Augustine’s perspective:

Another mystery commonly observed by committee pathologists is that the time consumed in debate is dominated by those with the least to offer.

Reeling from the question, “Why was I there?” I was called into another, ideation meeting.  There were no introductions, no clear agenda, but there was a nice campaign speech.  I offered the first idea (mistakenly thinking that’s what one does at an ideation meeting) and was immediately shot down.  No one else spoke up after that.  I don’t remember much more (but I did catch up on email).

That afternoon – the trifecta.  Bypassing introductions (honoring our new ritual of strangers meeting with strangers) we actually had 5 agenda items; of course, only time for 1, so we ran 30 minutes over; and ended with clean in boxes and without tasks; timeframes; roles; or responsibilities.

The main discussion was around improving an existing program that is getting rave reviews from our clients.  In fact, the senior executive in the meeting stated the feedback he receives has been nothing less than this program is “the best our clients have ever participated in”!

Since it is working so well – we decided to improve it.  Reminds me of John M. Capozzi’s perspective:

In all my years in business, I have found that people in meetings tend to agree on decisions that as individuals, they know are dumb.

I think that’s also called Stage 3 on Arthur Black’s list.  Running off to our next meetings (late), we departed without assigning tasks, but took a moment to salute the battle cry, “Let’s take the hill”!

GAP

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my website too:  The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective© Please check it out.